Gran Torino ★★★★★

Confession of lives performed. Gran Torino is the one post Unforgiven Eastwood film that deals directly with the idea of Eastwood as an icon as opposed to let his presence inform the action. It refers to many previous Eastwood movies (particular Honkytonk Man, Heartbreak Ridge and Unforgiven), but mostly suggest a version of Million Dollar Baby that is both looser and more loaded with signifiers. It is another funeral (this one almost literally starts and ends with one), another movie with Eastwood playing a closed off old man happy to die alone and forced to deal with the world around, they both heavily feature priests and the notion of Church and sin as mediation for the Eastwood's character past and present actions and both are interested in imagining American 21st blue collar life in terms most American cinema have little interest on. The two movies even share the same main dramatic flaw, how the people responsible to get Eastwood's character out of his comfort last days zone are hardly imagined as characters as much as vehicles for his journeys, although I'd argue it functions better here because the general dramatic conception assumes this demonstrative symbolic drama that the earlier film tries to ignore (it is a characteristic that runs from time to time on Eastwood's movies, but Gran Torino and White Hunter, Black Heart are the ones that confront it more directly). It is very much about images and ideas about Eastwood himself and his place on American imagination, very loaded with associations including its use of Detroit setting with its suggestion of decay of industrial working class life. I should probably point out that on my experience, Gran Torino is far more widely beloved among Eastwood's foreign fans than American ones and that probably relates to the amount of mystification involved in such proccess and how the abstract idea that comes from it plays better to someone from whom "US life" equates with an idea from other movies. There's many mirrors between Eastwood's and the Hmong family that are central to the conception which is very dependent on the notion that people identify themselves through class matters more than blood and race regardless of how fiction pretends otherwise and it treats Eastwood's image as both central to notions of tribalist fiction and through his populist success above it (weather Eastwood has an inflated opinion of his iconic self is of course open to debate). A lot of Gran Torino is dependent on what kind of image Eastwood's presence conjure, he is there as main object of contemplation and distancing device. An idea of the movies dropped into the action (an idea one is very aware throughout as except from John Carroll Lynch, no actor here is quite allowed to hold his own with him), His ridiculousnous is duly observed, while his worldview reinforced. Unlike, Million Dollar Baby which is trying hard to make clear it is art, Gran Torino is tossed off, very relaxed. That the early film treats Eastwood's disappearence as a tragic act of symbolical suicide and the later one has quiet practical acceptance of it is probably a consequence of how the two films are designed. Sometimes an image just reach its expiration date, that doesn't mean it won't be allowed to remain hanging around as a phantom reminder of what come before.

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